Josie and the Pussycats (formatted as Josie and the Pussy Cats in the opening titles) is an American animated television series, based upon the Archie Comics comic book series of the same name created by Dan DeCarlo.
Josie and the Pussycats featured an all-girl pop music band that toured the world with their entourage, getting mixed up in strange adventures, spy capers, and mysteries. On the small-screen, the group consisted of level-headed lead singer and guitarist Josie, intelligent tambourinist Valerie, and air-headed blonde drummer Melody. Other characters included their cowardly manager Alexander Cabot III, his conniving sister Alexandra, her cat Sebastian, and muscular roadie Alan M.
The show, more similar to Hanna-Barbera’s successful Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! than the original Josie comic book, is famous for its music, the girls’ leopard print leotards (replete with “long tails and ears for hats,” as the theme song states), and for featuring Valerie as the first regularly appearing black character in a Saturday morning cartoon show!
Each episode featured a Josie and the Pussycats song played over a chase scene, which, in a similar fashion to The Monkees, featured the group running after and from a selection of haplessly villainous characters.
During the 1968-69 television season, the first Archie-based Saturday morning cartoon, The Archie Show, was a huge success, not only in the ratings on CBS, but also on the Billboard charts: The Archies’ song “Sugar, Sugar” hit the #1 spot on the Billboard charts in September 1969, becoming the number one song of the year. Animation studio Hanna-Barbera Productions wanted to duplicate the success their competitors Filmation were having with The Archie Show. After a failed attempt at developing a teenage-music-band show of their own called Mysteries Five (which eventually became Scooby-Doo, Where are You!), they decided to go to the source and contacted Archie Comics about possibly adapting one of their remaining properties into a show similar to The Archie Show. Archie and Hanna-Barbera collaborated to adapt Archie’s Josie comic book into a music-based property about a teenage music band, adding new characters (Alan M. and Valerie) while dismissing others.
In preparation for the upcoming cartoon series, Hanna-Barbera began working on putting together a real-life Josie and the Pussycats girl group, who would provide the singing voices of the girls in the cartoons and also record an album of songs to be used both as radio singles and in the TV series.
The Josie and the Pussycats recordings were produced by La La Productions, run by Danny Janssen and Bobby Young. They held a talent search to find three girls who would match the three girls in the comic book in both looks and singing ability, and, after interviewing over 500 finalists, settled upon casting Kathleen Dougherty (Cathy Dougher) as Josie, Cherie Moor (actress Cheryl Ladd) as Melody, and Patrice Holloway as Valerie.
Janssen presented the newly formed band to William Hanna and Joseph Barbera to finalize the production deal, but was in for a surprise. Hanna-Barbera wanted Janssen to recast Patrice Holloway, because they had decided to portray “Josie and the Pussycats” as an all-white trio and had altered Valerie, who had been conceived as African-American and was already appearing as such in Archie’s revamped Josie and the Pussycats comic book, to make her white. Janssen refused to recast Holloway and threatened to walk away from the project. After a three-week-long stand-off between Janssen and Hanna-Barbera, Hanna-Barbera finally relented and allowed Janssen to keep Holloway, and changed Valerie back to being African-American.
The Valerie character was the first African-American female character on a regular Saturday morning cartoon series. The Hardy Boys drummer Pete Jones had been the first African-American male to appear on Saturday mornings a year earlier, and Hanna-Barbera also introduced a Harlem Globetrotters series, which featured an African-American drummer named Pete Jones (portrayed by real-life session drummer Bob Crowder in live segments), and it aired in 1969, a year before Josie and the Pussycats. However, Valerie was the very first female African-American cast member on a regular Saturday-morning cartoon.
The show’s theme song, titled “Josie and the Pussycats”, was written by Hoyt Curtin, William Hanna (under the pseudonym “Denby Williams”), and Joseph Barbera (under the pseudonym “Joseph Roland”). Patrice Holloway, the singing voice of Valerie, sings the lead vocal on the recording. The theme song was based on melodies from a incidental tune played on various Hanna-Barbera cartoons.
A cover of “Josie and the Pussycats”, performed by Juliana Hatfield and Tanya Donelly, is included on the 1995 tribute album Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits, produced by Ralph Sall for MCA Records. More recently you can listen to a new revamped version of the theme song on Boomerang during the commercials in a video called “Musical Evolution”, but we have it right here for you.
Josie and the Pussycats debuted on the CBS Saturday morning lineup on September 12, 1970, with the episode “The Nemo’s a No-No Affair.” The animated version of Josie was an amalgam of plot devices, villain types, settings, moods, and tones from other Hanna-Barbera shows such as Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, and Shazzam. Like Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, Josie and the Pussycats was originally broadcast with a laugh track. Later home video and DVD releases omit the laugh track.
Every episode of the show would find the Pussycats and crew en route to perform a gig or record a song in some exotic location. Somehow, often due to something Alexandra did, they would accidentally find themselves mixed up in an adventure/mystery. The antagonist was always a diabolical mad scientist, spy, or criminal who wanted to take over the world using some hi-tech device. The Pussycats would usually find themselves in possession of the plans for an invention, an item of interest to the villains, a secret spy message, etc., and the villains would give chase. Eventually, the Pussycats would formulate a plan to destroy the villain’s plans and bring them to justice, which result in a final chase sequence set to a Pussycats song. (Sounds like the formula for an episode of Scooby-Doo.)
The Pussycats would succeed in capturing the villain and get back to their gig/recording session/etc. The final gag always centered around one of Alexandra’s attempts to interfere with/put an end to The Pussycats’ performance and/or steal Alan away from Josie.
In September 1972, a spin-off series titled Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space debuted on CBS. This version of the series launched the characters into outer space; the opening credits sequence shows Alexandra accidentally knocking the cast into a spaceship and launching it into deep space. Every episode centered on the Pussycats encountering a strange new world, where they would encounter and often be kidnapped by various alien races before escaping and attempting to return home.
Musical numbers and chase sequences set to newly recorded songs were featured in this spin-off series as with the original. Josie in Outer Space also added the character of Bleep, a car-sized fluffy alien adopted by Melody, who was the only one who could understand the creature (who only says “Bleep”) and numerous other alien animals encountered.
The 16 episodes of Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space were re-run for the 1973-1974 season until January 26, 1974, when CBS canceled it and ordered no more new Josie episodes from Hanna-Barbera. Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space contained a laugh track as well, but utilized an inferior version created by the studio.
Josie and The Pussycats made a final appearance as animated characters in a guest shot on the September 22, 1973 episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, “The Haunted Showboat.” Early production art for Hana-Barbera’s 1977 “all-star” Battle of the Network Stars spoof Laff-A-Lympics featured Alexandra, Sebastian, Alexander, and Melody among other Hanna-Barbera characters as members of the “Scooby Doobies” team, but legal problems prevented their inclusion in the final program.
In 1976, Rand McNally published a children’s book based on the Josie TV show, Hanna-Barbera’s Josie and The Pussycats: The Bag Factory Detour.
The original Josie and the Pussycats series was re-run on NBC Saturday morning for the 1975-1976 season. In the mid-1980s, both series, along with a number of other 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoons (including Bratz) were on board USA Network’s Cartoon Express; they would next appear on Cartoon Network in 1992, where all 32 episodes were run in the same timeslot. Both programs, as of 2012, are in the library of Boomerang (Time Warner’s archive cartoon channel) but do not air. When it does air, it is typically as part of the channel’s block of mystery-solving cartoons, Those Meddling Kids! This month, June 2012, Boomerang has declaired Josie to be Boomeroyalty, which means you can see cartoons with her on Saturdays from 2-4 on Boomerang.
Josie and the Pussycats was named the 100th best animated series by entertainment website IGN, which referred to Josie as “an amusing show for how it combined elements from The Archie Show and Scooby-Doo”.
In 2001, Cartoon Network began airing a Josie and the Pussycats short, called “Musical Evolution”, featured the Pussycats performing their theme song through the various eras of pop music, including pop, disco, punk, Kiss-like heavy metal, country, and techno dance. Different animation styles are used for each era. The same year, Josie and the Pussycats was adapted into a live action motion picture. The film, produced by Universal Pictures, featured a punk rock cover of the theme song during the end credits.
The 2004 – 2007 Comedy Central animated TV series Drawn Together featured a character named Foxxy Love. An African-American mystery-solving musician, was a direct parody of the Josie and the Pussycats character Valerie Brown.
Several episodes of Speed Buggy, a later Hanna-Barbera show, had similar plots to Josie and the Pussycats episodes, specifically A Greenthumb is Not a Goldfinger (Island of the Giant Plants), X Marks the Spot (Out of Sight), and the Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space episode Warrior Women of Amazonia (called The Hidden Valley of Amazonia in Speed Buggy).